In a follow up to the story I blogged about yesterday, Rebecca Stevenson at the Dom Post reports:
Unite, one of New Zealand’s largest unions, owed IRD over $130,000 for the year ended March 2009 (its most recent filing), including more than $57,000 in unpaid GST. For the same financial year its liabilities outweighed its assets by more than $170,000.
It is the unpaid PAYE that will be causing most concern, as this is in fact money owed by the employees to the IRD, and UNITE has appropriated it for its own purposes. It is the sort of stuff that the newspaper boss Maxwell did – but on a much smaller scale.
Unite head Matt McCarten confirmed yesterday that the union owed money to the IRD but said he had made choices to pay for union campaigns rather than clear the debt. “I don’t shy away from these decisions, I make the calls.”
He said Unite paid $8000 in PAYE each month to the IRD but kept incurring late payment penalties. He claimed not to know exactly how much it owed the IRD.
The late penalties do add up – as many businesses know. But if it was a deliberate decision to keep running campaigns, instead of paying off the debt, then few will have sympathy.
He agreed it was not a good look for a workers’ union to fail to pay its employees’ tax.
I don’t think Matt realises how bad a look it is. The next time UNITE or Matt calls for greater government spending, this issue will arise.
CTU president Helen Kelly said Unite did good work in an area that was difficult and expensive to organise. That required it to juggle its finances. “All unions are always short of resources.”
However, when questioned on Unite’s tax failure, she said: “I need an explanation for that”.
I’m not sure I would say all unions are short of resources. The combined wealth of the union movement puts the Business Roundtable, Business NZ, and the Chambers of Commerce to shame. I did a blog post a couple of years back comparing them.